At 107 Years Old, This Foodservice Brand Has Aged Like Fine Wine
(Sponsored) Y. Hata & Co. has been in business for more than a century, but the past few months have proven that it’s just getting started.
Photos: Courtesy of Y. Hata Co. Ltd.
T he key to staying young, I’ve often been told, is to stay flexible. Don’t settle too much into routine, be open to new experiences, and, most of all, when life hits you with a lemon and you’ve misplaced the citrus reamer, forget the lemonade and find something else to make with ’em.
Needless to say, none of us were prepared to make lemonade out of the giant sack of lemons that is COVID-19. But by staying flexible, residents have been able to adapt, even grow, from our new unconventional circumstances. Same goes for businesses: In the past few months, I’ve seen local brands think up creative new marketing ideas, find new avenues to sell and support one another through the crisis.
Cast in point: Island foodservice distributor Y. Hata & Co. Ltd. With more than a century in business, the family-owned, locally operated company, which has supplied locally owned restaurants and other food-related businesses for decades, knows a thing or two about what it takes to succeed. When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, it stayed flexible, immediately shifting focus to innovating new ways to give the community safe and affordable access to food.
That meant heightened safety measures, of course. ChefZone, Y. Hata’s wholesale supermarket concept serving restaurant professionals as well as the public, implemented in-store headcount limits, elevated sanitization procedures, face mask requirements and more. But that also meant innovating safer and more convenient options for customers to restock their pantries and fridges. Within a few weeks’ time, the company launched its online store, chefzone.com, added a curbside pickup service and created Superette to GO!, a service that helps reduce the travel strain on families across the island by delivering family-friendly food bundles directly to the neighborhoods themselves and distributing at pickup points. All three of these new offerings are available to the entire community. “What’s been really fulfilling is being able to keep the doors of ChefZone open during the COVID-19 lockdown,” says Russell J. Hata, chairman, president and CEO of Y. Hata. “We were able to move quickly to create a safe shopping environment for everyone, and I think, because of that, we were able to welcome many more ‘ohana members who were looking for affordable and diverse food options.”
Virtually no businesses have been left untouched by COVID-19. Local businesses, especially those in the food industry, have been hit especially hard. It’s moments such as these, when we’re all in the same boat, that it’s more important than ever to remember that we’re all in this together, and that it takes holding each other up to stay afloat. And while Y. Hata is no stranger to giving back—to date, it’s donated more than 10,000 pounds of food to nonprofit partners—since the pandemic the brand has doubled its dedication to the community through new partnerships and support to Island families. In the past three months, the company has helped to feed more than 6,000 families through donations of food and other items. It has nourished the state’s frontline workers with free meals. And it continues to support partner nonprofits—Aloha Harvest, The Hawai‘i Foodbank and The Pantry, to name a few—with weekly donations to keep Hawai‘i families fed.
Y. Hata’s advice to other companies? Stay focused, move fast, be innovative, be mindful of others and do anything you can to help. ”Yes, we need to survive,” says Hata. “But this community is in this together. So, every request for help and every opportunity for partnership, we’ve said yes. Y. Hata has survived over the generations because we’ve continued to adapt, and I think you must in order to survive and thrive in this new reality.” With Y. Hata as ingrained in our local food industry as it is, it’s this mindset—flexibility, perhaps?—that continues to keep local restaurants and families supported while we brave the economic impacts of COVID-19.
None of us know exactly how, or how long, Hawai‘i will be affected by the pandemic. But as restaurants and bars reopen for dine-in, our favorite stores welcome shoppers back, and life (knock on wood) slowly returns to the old normal, please don’t forget to support the local businesses you love—or the ones behind them.